Sunday, August 31, 2014

In Weakness

I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.  1 Corinthians 2:3-5

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.  But he passed through the midst of them and went away.  Luke 4:28-30

Following his temptation in the desert, Jesus begins his ministry in the temple of his adopted hometown.  Only the initial amazement soon turns to rejection.  The people who have walked in darkness expect a King with riches to lead them.  Instead, they get the embodiment of Micah 8:  “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Still in the early pages of the Good News as passed down by St. Luke, what got the people in Nazareth so riled up?  It appears that the ministry of Jesus the Christ could end almost before it began.   Luke uses this incident to foreshadow the entire ministry of Jesus.  However, the initial admiration of the people turns to rejection over a few critical words which Jesus intentionally left out of the passage from Isaiah. 

Here is the passage from today at Luke 4:18-19:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

Here is the source passage from Isaiah 61:1-2.  Note in BOLD the missing phrase:  The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.”

After years of slavery, occupation, and oppression, the people – who knew the words of the prophets in their hearts and minds – were anticipating a conquering savior-king who would bring vengeance and vindication.  Not only did Jesus not intend to deliver upon that human demand, his ministry, while fulfilling the terms of the prophets, started out in the least possible way that could never be considered filled with power or traditional kingship. 

Jesus came to them “in weakness.”  He was born to a poor girl and carpenter-father and initially raised as a refugee in a foreign land.  How would he expel the belligerent Romans from the Holy Land?  How would this Jesus, this carpenter’s son “rebuild the ancient ruins” or “restore the desolate cities” that had been in tattered for generations of generations.

If Israel was punished double for infidelity, then the blessings of its restoration that the people expected would also be double.  Yet that is not what Jesus promised in Nazareth that fateful day. He did not deliver on human wisdom and power but rather on the wisdom and power of God. 

What is your Fairfax Manifesto?  Or Arlington Manifesto?  This passage in the temple today helped to identify the ministry of Jesus with a concern and attitude toward the economically and socially poor.  According to the notes in the New American Bible, “At times, the poor in Luke’s gospel are associated with the downtrodden, the oppressed and afflicted, the forgotten and the neglected, and it is they who accept Jesus’ message of salvation.”

How do you identify with the poor of Luke’s gospel and the poor of today? 

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